I’ll be honest, the last couple weeks of UK football have been very disappointing for me as a fan. Before the season began, the obvious benchmark for whether this would be a good season or not was 6 wins. After beating Missouri that became basically a lock. But in a strange twist of fate that win suddenly vaulted UK into a realistic chance to win the SEC East. And as much as fans wanted to stick to that 6 win plateau as the goal of the year, I think sometimes expectations have to change during a season. UK has had a realistic chance of winning the SEC East this late into the season maybe never. And this year, it was there. But the last two weeks have pushed UK back to 5-5 and the way the Cats have lost is reminiscent of the last 25 years of UK football. That has been what is most disappointing. Not the fact that UK blew a good chance at the SEC title game but the way they have done it, untimely turnovers, poor defense, etc is something that is not new to us.
Now, with that said, no matter how this season ends in the final 2-3 games, clearly this program has made progress this year (sans an Austin Peay loss). No matter how much the expectations have changed mid-season, this program is better and the future looks really bright for 2017.
Let’s assume UK wins on Saturday. Probably a pretty good bet. That leaves the Cats at 6-5 on the year with Louisville and a bowl opponent left. So I wonder:
What is the overall assessment of the season if the Cats finish 6-7 or 7-6?
Obviously, if they win both games and finish 8-5 it was an AWESOME year. But the odds would say UK is likely to drop 1 of the final 2 games. If UK plays Texas in the bowl game as some predictions have, the Cats will likely be underdogs in both the UL and Texas games. I think they certainly can beat Texas and wouldn’t be surprised if UK gives UL a run for its money. But what if UK happens to lose both games? That would be a 6-7 season with 4 losses in the final 5 games, and only an Austin Peay win in there. The wins on the year would be New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi State, Austin Peay. Again, the season would be considered PROGRESS but would you have a sour taste how it finished? Would you have the same feeling as 2014 and 2015 with the Cats floundering down the stretch?
Now, think about the better scenario. A win over Louisville, crushing their national title hopes, and I frankly don’t care what the bowl score is. Lose 90-0 to Texas or anybody and it doesn’t matter to me. The season would be a rousing success, not only because it would be a winning season but because of the Louisville win and what that would mean. Of course it is far more likely the Cats drop the game to UL and have a better chance against whatever bowl opponent they get. So let’s say that happens. A 6-6 UK team against another team likely in the 6-6 or 7-5 range. I think if that scenario happens (and is the most likely scenario), part of me thinks that is almost MUST WIN territory. Not must win in some way that Mark Stoops job depends on it or that 2017 wouldn’t have excitement but must win for the momentum. A 6-7 season is a losing season. A 7-6 season is a winning season. Winning a bowl game, much like UK did in 2006, can lead to summertime excitement from the fans and that momentum can carry over into the next year, much like it did in 2007.
I think the Austin Peay game can be a nice reset for this Cats team. The excitement after the Missouri game was a great chance for the Cats to do something special. The last 2 weeks have eliminated that but it doesn’t mean this season doesn’t have great potential. The last time UK won 8 games was 2007 and this team still has that chance. But if UK goes into a bowl game at 6-6, I think that makes that bowl game HUGE for both players and fans. What about you?
Would a 6-7 season or a 7-6 season leave you with the same feelings going into the offseason?